If you haven’t watched Making a Murderer yet (well, what did you do over Christmas? Spend actual time with your relatives?) now’s the time to get stuck-in.
The Netflix true crime documentary has taken the world by storm and has been dubbed one of the most important documentaries ever made.
The 10-part series, created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, has captivated, gripped, astonished, outraged and drawn people in in equal measures, named by Forbes magazine as “Netflix’s most significant show ever,” and sparking a Change.org petition with over 200,000 signatures calling for Barack Obama’s intervention.
The documentary, which took a decade to film and construct, follows the story of Wisconsin-based Steven Avery. In the first episode, we learn of how Avery served 18 years of a rape sentence, that began in 1985, but was exonerated by DNA evidence which it is suggested the police previously had access to.
Avery’s release resulted in justice reform and he began the process of suing the local sheriff’s office for £25 million over corruption.
In the middle of proceedings, Avery was charged by the same sheriff's office with the murder of 26-year-old photographer, Teresa Halbach in 2005. He is currently serving a life sentence for the crime.
Making a Murderer follows Avery’s case from the beginning, interviewing him and his family, gathering archival material, recording court scenes and revealing evidence that suggests he could have been framed for Halbach’s murder.
Perhaps true crime dramas aren’t your thing, perhaps you’re more of a Pretty Little Liars fan (just me?). Either way, Making a Murderer has gripped all demographics and here’s why you should absolutely watch it:
1. It’s Serial, but on Netflix
Think back to October 2014 when all anyone could talk about was Sarah Koenig’s podcast, Serial, and whether or not Adnan Seyd really did murder 18-year-old Hae Min Lee (for which he is currently serving time). Remember how you cancelled all your plans, quoting the flu, simply to go home and listen to the next installment, how your daily commute became the absolute highlight of your day because you got a little bit closer to uncovering the truth?
Well, take Serial, add in a peppering of conspiracy, put it on telly and you’ve got Making a Murderer. Then try and peel yourself away. You. Will. Fail.
2. It will have you on the edge of your seat
Whether you plan to tune in for a marathon watch or ration yourself to an hour one evening, Making a Murderer will have you gripped from the off. Several Stylist team members have admitted to binge-watching the entire series - one who shall remain unnamed, even making it to the end within a day - because every episode ends with that age-old cliff-hanger. It feeds you just enough to give you no other choice but to sit back and let the next episode begin… if you can even wait 15 seconds.
3. It's (unbelievably) true and the story isn't over
Where fiction shows like Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards are big hitters for Netflix and draw in varying but huge viewing figures due to flawless script writing and powerful acting, Making a Murderer appeals for the exact opposite reason: it’s a true story with real people.
Just this week, the online activist group, Anonymous, have claimed to have evidence that proves Avery’s innocence. Meanwhile, others, including Manitowoc Sheriff and case prosecutors, claim the footage in the programme has been manipulated. As Avery’s case was previously unknown to most of us, the series works because each piece of the story gradually unfurls to one’s disbelief, which only adds to the suspense and outrage felt when viewing it.
4. We are all detectives
Inspired by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, true crime dramas feed into our desire to uncover conspiracy. After Avery’s murder conviction based on what appears, initially, to be solid evidence, everything in the documentary consists of whodunits and endless conspiracy theories, which leaves plenty of scope for guessing and debating among friends, imagining ourselves as investigative journalists or detectives. We all love a conspiracy theory (the Making a Murderer Reddit feed attests to this. Warning: procrastination zone), and there’s nothing about this show that doesn’t lend itself brilliantly to discussion about Avery’s culpability. Friday night at the pub just got a whole lot more interesting. Beware, though: we are only being shown part of a story.
5. Everyone loves an underdog
We all like to fight for the underdog – someone who is seemingly persecuted by the establishment, with only a glimmer of hope, but continues to fight back. After learning about Steven Avery’s wrongful rape conviction and subsequent 18 years in prison in episode one, it’s difficult not to be on his side. Having been dealt the atrociously shitty hand of an unwarranted lifetime behind bars during which time his family tirelessly worked to clear his name, Avery is then put back in the slammer for a crime it appears he was framed for. The documentary reveals a complete disregard for Avery’s life by the American justice system. Additionally, Avery’s underprivileged, uneducated background makes him a ripe target for such accusations – which only furthers our support of him.
6. The insight into the American justice system
Possible planted evidence, the lack of investigation into any other suspects, police corruption and cohort confessions are all combined in a heady mix that questions the entirety of the American justice system. For viewing Brits, in a country where no filming is permitted in court, it’s a fascinating insight into the process.
7. The love of lawyers
Second only to journalists as society’s most hated players, lawyers have often gotten a bad wrap. But Making A Murderer sheds light on those few gems in the law who entered into it purely for a thirst for justice and to speak for those in society who cannot speak for themselves. Avery’s chief defence lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting emerge from the series as unsung heroes (and seem to have become unlikely sex symbols in the meantime), whose tireless and determined support for their client brings a speck of positivity to a tragic tale. Buting’s lines about how Avery’s fate could be that of any one of us, really brings the story home, and Strang has even been called the Sandy Cohen of the real world.
8. All the celebrities are obsessed
There’s nothing quite as fun for us laypeople, as knowing that the A-list are as obsessed with something as we are, and that’s certainly the case with Making a Murderer. From Mindy Kaling to Chrissy Teigen, the rich and famous have been binge-watching their way into the new year alongside us.